Corrective Exercise Programme for Cyclists

by Olly Hermon-Taylor, a.k.a Lean Green Human Being

Free corrective cycling programme for fitzroy / ride london participants

With all of that time spent in the saddle, training for a 100 miler, it's easy to develop muscle imbalances, dysfunctional movement patterns and pattern overload, if you don't carefully balance your training.

To avoid injury, it's essential to spend time in the gym, balancing out the body and working your weak links, particularly the opposing movement patterns and muscle groups to the ones used in road cycling. A well constructed, corrective exercise programme will help improve your posture, remove muscle imbalances and improve dysfunctional movement patterns. It will also help you build mobility, stability, strength and power.

I've put together a simple, cycling-specific exercise programme for all Fitzroy participants taking part in the Prudential Ride London event on 31st July. This programme will help improve posture, mobility and cycling specific performance.

Before starting any kind of new exercise programme, you should always check with your doctor, especially if you have any injuries, bone or joint problems, back pain, or a history of heart disease, stroke or shortness of breath and chest pain when exercising.

Foam rolling (5 - 9 mins)

Like a D.I.Y sports massage, foam rolling is a great way to release tension, restore tissue quality and improve movement in the major muscle groups used in cycling (and all other sports). All you need is a foam roller, some floor space and you're in business.

Click here to download the "Quick Guide To Foam Rolling" e-book for specific guidelines.

Foam roll the following muscle groups before each training session (and as often as you like if you feel a lot of tension in them). Spend 30-60 seconds rolling each side or muscle group (e.g. 60 seconds for each calf).

  • Calves
  • Quads
  • Illiotibial Band (IT Band)
  • Glutes
  • Thoracic Spine

movement preparation (5 mins)

As the name suggests, movement preparation prepares you for movement and exercise. These four mobilisations tackle some of the most common movement imbalances and postural issues I see in the gym, day in and day out and are particularly relevant for cyclists.

Perform the following four mobilisations back to back to prepare your body for the exercise programme.

1. book openers (10 reps each side)

  • Side-lying with knees and hips at 90 degrees, with yoga blocks (or cushion, etc.) held between knees
  • One hand on top of the other, slide your top hand forwards 2 inches, then open the book (your arms) breathing in deeply for the first two thirds of the movement
  • Relax your head onto the floor and exhale for the last third of the movement, lowering your arm down as far as you comfortably can.
  • Avoid pain, especially in the lower back and shoulders (stop if you feel pain) and only go as far as you comfortably can.
  • Swap sides and repeat for 10 reps each side

2. Wallden drops (5-10 reps)

  • On all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, take a deep belly breath
  • Keeping your arms straight, gently lower your hips to the floor, exhaling on the way down and relaxing your buttocks
  • The idea is to open the front of your hips, stretch your abdominals and increase the range of motion in your lower back (gently)
  • Only go as far down as you comfortably can. Avoid pain and STOP if you get any pain in the lower back

3. Active straight leg raise + band or strap (10 reps each side)

Use a strong resistance band, towel, skipping rope, or anything that is long enough to loop around your foot, as shown.

  • Lying flat on your back, loop the band around the ball of your right foot and pull back and down towards your chest
  • Lock the right leg out, relax your head and neck down and keep your shoulders back and down. whilst holding the band
  • Take a deep belly breath, exhale and tighten your abs, pushing your lower back down into the floor (do NOT do this is you have any kind of lower back pain or disc injury*)
  • Lift your left leg up and lock it out, in line with the right leg.
  • Keeping your abs tight and your lower back pressed down, exhale and slowly lower your left leg down to touch the ground, pause and then return to the start position and repeat
  • Swap sides and repeat, doing 10 reps each side
  • Only go as far down as you comfortably can. STOP if you get any pain in the lower back

4. Deep lunge + rotation (5 reps each side)

  • Step forwards with your right leg into a deep lunge, trailing the left leg and opening the front of the hip
  • Place your right hand inside your right instep, take a deep belly breath and touch your left elbow to your right knee
  • Exhale and rotate your torso to the left, opening the left arm out, stretching the front of the left hip
  • Keep the right heel down and your chest lifted at all times, to keep a good spine position. Don't round out your back
  • Only go as far down as you comfortably can and avoid pain in the hips, lower or upper back.

corrective exercise programme (2-4 circuits = 15 - 30 mins)

Now you're rolled and mobilised, you're ready to move on to the cycling-specific, corrective exercise programme. I've designed this circuit to build stability, strength and a little power, that should translate to improved performance on the bike.

Perform the following 6 exercises, back to back, with as little rest as possible between exercises. Reset for 60 to 90 seconds between circuits and aim for 2-4 circuits in total, as time allows. Progress gradually, adding more circuits, shortening rest periods and increasing the weight on certain exercises, when ready. Always stay in control.

Please try and copy the technique shown in the videos as closely as possible, in order to get the best results and stay safe. Follow the speed shown for each repetition.

Please use your common sense and be careful when using kettlebells, especially with the Hardstyle Swings. Although I'm teaching you correct technique in these videos, there is still a risk with any kind of resistance exercise. If in doubt, find a qualified coach to help teach you proper technique (like me for example).

1. hardstyle kettlebell swing (10 reps)

Hardstyle is the method we teach in the Strongfirst kettlebell coaching system. It simply means doing it properly, with perfect technique and lots of explosive power.

  • Take a deep belly breath, tighten your abs, hinge at the hips and bend your knees enough to reach the kettlebell handle
  • Keep your back flat (don't round the spine at all), pull your shoulders back and down and tension the body
  • Hike the kettlebell back between your knees and then extend the hips explosively to swing the kettlebell forwards (imagine throwing the kettlebell as far forwards as you can)
  • At the top position you should finish in a "standing plank", with locked knees, tight abs and glutes. Don't lean back or arch your lower back
  • Keep the arms straight but relaxed and shoulders back and down and don't swing the kettlebell above chest height
  • Follow the natural movement of the kettlebell and hinge at the hips, keeping a tight core and flat back, allowing the kettlebell to swing back through the legs
  • Repeat for 10 explosive swings, then set the kettlebell down gently
  • STOP if you feel any pain in your lower back

2. Half-kneeling kettlebell chop & lift (10 reps each side)

  • In a half-kneeling position, with your right leg forwards and left leg back, 90 degrees at each knee
  • You should have a straight line from the left knee, hip, shoulder and ear
  • Holding a light kettlebell, "by the horns" in front of your left hip, take a deep belly breath, lengthen your spine, tighten and tuck your left glute (buttock) and keep your abs tight
  • Lift the kettlebell up to the centre of your chest and then press it up, over your right shoulder, keeping it close in to the body
  • Return to the start position slowly, under control and repeat for 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat

3. kettlebell offset split squat (10 reps each side)

  • Hold a kettlebell in your right hand in the "front rack" position and step forwards with your left leg
  • Drop the right knee to the floor and set up in a half-kneeling position (see exercise 2) with your feet hip width apart and 90 degrees at each knee
  • Take a deep belly breath, tighten your abs and keep a long spine and press the floor away with both legs to stand up
  • Slowly lower under control, pause at the bottom with your knee just touching the floor and then return to the top again and repeat for 10 reps
  • Make sure you use both legs (50/50 weight distribution) and drop your right knee straight down. Don't lean forwards
  • Swap sides and repeat for 10 reps (take 30 seconds rest between legs to recover)

4. 1-Arm contralateral kettlebell row (10 reps each side)

  • Step forwards into a semi-lunge position with right leg forward and left leg back
  • Hold the kettlebell in your left hand, take a deep belly breath, tighten your abs, hinge at the hips and keep a good spine position, with a flat back (don't round out your spine)
  • Row the kettlebell up by pulling with the left elbow and rotating your torso. Drive the movement from your core
  • Squeeze your shoulder blade back and down at the top, pause and then lower under control and repeat for 10 reps
  • Switch sides and repeat for 10 reps
  • Keep good alignment in your spine at all times, tight core, flat back and chin tucked.

5. dead bug (8-12 reps each leg)

  • Lying on your back, lift your legs up, with 90 degrees at the knees and hips and toes pointing to the ceiling
  • Take a deep belly breath, exhale hard to tuck your lower ribs down and tighten your abdominals
  • Flatten your lower back down into the floor (do NOT do this if you have back pain or any kind of disc injury / history*)
  • Holding this activated core position, slowly lower one heel down to the floor, pause and return to the top and then lower the other heel down to the floor, pause and return to the top. Don't lose tension in the core or let the lower back arch at any point.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps on each leg (16-24 reps in total)

6. prone cobra (3-5 reps)

  • Lying face down, take a deep belly breath
  • Keeping your toes on the floor, lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor, keeping your chin tucked to your chest
  • Externally rotate your hands so the palms are facing out and squeeze your shoulders back and down (so you feel work low down in between the shoulder blades)
  • Breathe evenly and hold the up position for 15 seconds, relax and rest for 5 seconds and then repeat the 15 second hold for 3 total reps, resting 5 seconds between each

So there you have it. A cycling-specific, corrective exercise programme that should help you improve your posture, mobility, stability, strength and power, all of which will translate into improved performance when cycling.

*If you have current back pain, a disc injury or any kind of back pain history, you should get a thorough assessment from a qualified professional before attempting any of these exercises. A good corrective exercise specialist can help you get out of pain and regain an active lifestyle.


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